Virtual Reality technology brings benefits for young people at a Newcastle hospital

Posted: 27/03/19

Children and young people at a Newcastle hospital have used virtual reality technology to enhance their environment, build life skills and enrich their educational activities.

The Alnwood unit at St Nicholas Hospital in Gosforth installed a new Sony virtual reality (VR) system in early 2019, in response to a desire from young people to expand their knowledge of modern technology and especially VR.

The technology means that all the young people at Alnwood can have regular access to a 360 degree visually immersive virtual reality experience. The system is used for educational sessions, as a tool to develop service users’ life skills and for entertainment purposes.

Alnwood is part of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW), which provides mental health and disability services across the North East.

The new virtual reality system was made possible through a grant from the SHINE fund, NTW’s dedicated charity to provide therapeutic activities or equipment which are not possible through central funding but can make a real difference to patients.

The young people here at Alnwood may not have the opportunity to experience all of the same events that you or I would take for granted, such as seeing animals in a zoo, standing on a tropical beach or a myriad of other events that would seem normal to most people.

The value of using virtual reality technology is in the wide range of immersive experiences the system can offer. The effect of these experiences can be transformative for our young service users in terms of how they view their world, consider the impact of events, and explore their emotions in a structured and controlled way.

Our young people and staff would like to thank the SHINE fund for making this new activity a reality.

Geoff CottrellEducation Activity Coordinator at Alnwood

This is a fantastic experience – it feels just like the real thing.

A young person at Alnwood

Since being installed the VR system has been a huge success with young people at Alnwood. The unit’s staff team are now looking into the potential for the system to go one step further to assist with mindfulness sessions for young people.

As part of this staff aim to heighten the immersive experience for young people by combining the VR technology with physical elements such as real sand to simulate a beach environment, with fans to simulate the rush of a sea breeze.

The Alnwood unit provides secure inpatient assessment and treatment for young people up to 18 years who have complex mental health needs, including those with a learning disability.

The children and young people in the unit are fully involved in co-producing their own goals for therapy, education, activities and nursing care.

The new VR system is the latest example of how young people on the unit have influenced their environment including educational and recreational areas.

Find out more about Alnwood here.

The SHINE fund is part of NTW’s charitable activity and helps support people who use the Trust’s services by providing the extra things that can make a real difference.

The funding from SHINE helps to provide ‘little extras’ – therapeutic activities or items of comfort to assist with people’s care, treatment or rehabilitation, generally helping towards them living a happier, fuller life.

You can find out more about the SHINE fund here.